ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Peter Forsberg is returning to the NHL.
The former league MVP signed a US$1-million prorated contract for the remainder of the season with the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. He joined the team on its charter to Phoenix after practising at the team facility and meeting with general manager Greg Sherman to sign the deal.
“Peter believes he can compete at the NHL level based on how his workouts went,” Sherman said. “He will provide additional leadership to our club and he will have an impact with this young team.”
Forsberg, who has been out of the league for three years, said he made the decision to return to the NHL before Sunday’s practice.
“I was a little back and forth,” he said. “I kind of made up my mind before practice if nothing went wrong in practice I would see Greg.”
He said he doesn’t think he can play Monday night against the Coyotes and isn’t sure when he can get into an NHL game again.
“There are a few issues that have to be straightened out first,” he said. “I’d like to play, but I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I’m here, I came here to try and it’s going pretty good. I’d like to start playing and see if I’m good enough.”
The Avalanche are happy to have him back.
“When he’s available to us it will be a big boost for us emotionally and a big boost in our lineup,” coach Joe Sacco said. “He has a strong history in our organization, but we’re not doing it just for that reason. We’re doing it because we really believe that he can help us here down the stretch in the last 30 games. We all know how tight the conference is and the importance of these games.”
The 37-year-old Forsberg has been practising with the team for two weeks in hopes of making a comeback. He wanted to determine if his chronically injured right foot could handle the rigours of the NHL. He said he had to get into game shape before he could make a decision.
“The first couple of practices were tough. Guys were flying around you and I felt like I was 47 instead of 37,” he said. “It might be the case when I get out playing, I don’t know, but it has been feeling better and better, and I came here to try and I want to play hockey. I love playing hockey. I’m not sure I’m going to be good. We’ll see when I get going.”
He last played for the Avalanche late in the 2007-08 season, appearing in nine regular-season games and seven playoff games before being sidelined by injuries.
Fellow Swede Henrik Sedin said he was excited to hear that Forsberg is back.
“For us being from the same hometown, it’s going to be neat to play against him,”said the star Vancouver forward.“It’s a long time since we did that, so it should be fun.”
Sedin added he thinks Forsberg misses being part of a team.
“Everyone who retires, I think they go through the same thing,” Sedin said. “You’re part of a team and you’re coming down to the rink every day and having fun and winning together. It’s not easy to make the decision to quit hockey. I think he loves the game too much.”
Sedin and his twin brother Daniel last played with Forsberg during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“Obviously, it’s good for the game,”said Daniel Sedin.“He was a world-class player when he played a few years back and he’s still really good. So I think he’s going to help that team, for sure.”
He expected that Forsberg’s experience will help the Avalanche.
“He loves the game,”said Daniel Sedin.“He wants to quit the game on his own terms–not because of injury.”
Canucks winger Mikael Samuelsson said Forsberg will aid Colorado’s playoff run.
“He’s a force obviously,” Samuelsson said. “Everybody respects him. Everybody knows what he can do.”
Forsberg played for MoDo in his native Sweden the lastcouple of seasons.
He was one of the NHL’s best players in his prime, helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001. He won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in 2003, when he led the NHL with 106 points in 75 games.
Forsberg has 885 points (249 goals and 636 assists) in 706 regular-season games with Quebec/Colorado, Philadelphia and Nashville.
With files from The Canadian Press.